There was a time when film music was considered strictly background music – music that could not work on its own separate from the movie. How have things changed?
I don't necessarily agree that score music was once considered "background" music. I think there has always been a fan base of what I consider to be the most visual type of music ever made. That being said, I believe what makes score music more popular now is technology. I know that sounds silly, but movies are a much bigger part of our lives now than say in the 30's and 40's. Almost every home in America has at least one television and a large portion of homes have either a DVD player or Blu-Ray player to watch movies. Cable/Satellite channels like HBO and Cinemax bring the world of movies into our homes each minute of every day. With films becoming more prevalent in our society, all aspects of said films are also pushed into the foreground...music included.
When the music in a film is successful – what happens?
Generally speaking, the film is successful. Films are an audio/visual experience and when you take one of the two of away, you only have half a film. When used correctly, score music can make a chase scene more exciting, a frightening scene scarier, or a humorous moment hysterical. Take for instance The Pink Panther starring Peter Sellers. The performance of Sellers is nothing short of amazing, but if you strip out Henry Mancini's score, then the performance loses something. Without score music, you're only getting half of the experience.
Are there films where you consider the music to be a vital character – as important as the actors?
Absolutely! The best example of this is the film Jaws. With shooting going over schedule and the mechanical shark not working the way he would have liked it to, Spielberg decided the only way he could complete the film was to keep the shark hidden for a majority of the running time. The problem is he still needed a way to tell the audience that something dangerous was lurking in the water. In comes John Williams with one of the most memorable themes in the history of film. Whenever you hear the da-duh of the music, you know the shark is near and the tension of the scene immediately ratchets up. So, in a weird sort of way, William's score was the main character in the film for a majority of the time.
What are your goals for “Pops on Film?”
I basically want to show the power of score music and how it can create a mood or a feeling even when it's not in conjunction with a film. I believe that score music is essentially music for your eyes. Honestly, when one hears the "Imperial March" theme from Star Wars, you can practically see the film play out in your head. I also believe that can work for score music from films that a listener may not have seen before. Take the "End Credits" from The Shawshank Redemption by Thomas Newman. It is easily ranks up there as one of the most beautifully constructed pieces of score music written over the past 30 years and I know countless people who have used it in the weddings (myself included) because the theme brings about such a inspiring and hopeful feeling. And that truly is the power of score music. A great score transcends beyond the screen and can really be seen as a soundtrack to our lives.